Boxing Cat Brewery has been a craft beer staple of Shanghai since 2008. With three locations in Shanghai, plus another kitchen and taphouse, Boxing Cat is coming to South Korea tomorrow (Feb 20th, 2016) for the first time—at least for a little while.
Tomorrow, beer geeks from Seoul get a chance to try Boxing Cat’s most popular beers and meet their brewer, Michael Jordan. Originally from the U.S. (by way of Denmark), Michael has been the brewer at Boxing Cat since 2010. You can check out Craft Beer Asia’s interview with him from this past summer.
That’s really the shortest way to put it. The craft beer scene in Korea hasn’t fully grown or developed yet, but there’s no denying that it’s alive.
When I started writing for this blog in the summer of 2013 with my first summary, I really didn’t know where to get craft beer outside of Craftworks and Magpie. It was mostly Cass, Hite, and some big brewery imports. There were other ways to get your hands on good beer known only by savvy expats and Koreans; ways to find a bottle of Lost Coast or Anderson Valley or even some good homebrew. But for most people, you had to go to Kyungridan.
Ever since then, the scene has been expanding noticeably about every 3-6 months. Soon after I wrote the first summary, Itaewon starting exploding with craft beer. Reilly’s Taphouse had a big selection of imports and almost every hip foreign/fusion restaurant had Lost Coast’s Indica IPA or something similar. Today there’s a zillion places to get a great selection of beer.
Areas all over Korea are being infected with the craft beer bug. Busan’s Gwangalli Beach is a new haven that rivals any neighborhood in Seoul. Gwangju, Gangneung, Daejeon, Daegu, Incheon… they all have craft beer.
And there’s tons of places that I, as a non-adventurous foreigner, will never hear about. Places that sell Platinum, Ka-Brew, or 7Brau. There’s hundreds or even thousands of people in the business of craft beer now and it’s become impossible to keep up.
More new breweries are opening up soon. Magpie and Craftworks are both expected to open breweries this Spring. Platinum just opened a Korean location. The Booth is re-launching their brewery this January. There’s more and more Korean spots opening up that I can’t keep track of. There’s still too much re-branding, cross-contract brewing, and beers that don’t advertise where they’re from. It’s still a bit of a jungle. But the fact that there’s so much of it, after just 2.5 years since I’ve started looking, is incredible. And within the scene there’s so much good stuff.
As this is what it comes down to. What’s there to be excited about? For someone who’s just visiting or has just moved to Korea, what’s the bottom line?
Many countries in Asia are growing thirsty for craft beer. Although developments have not been as rapid in Taiwan, more homegrown breweries are churning out vessels of their brews as we speak. Over time, craft beer has caught up, with a band of 20-ish breweries open today and growing. Numerous bars and venues are adding craft beer to their list of offerings.
Redpoint Brewing Company was founded in 2014 and have come to open a full fledged brewing facility today with a capacity of 50,000L/month. 2 Americans who began as homebrewers, successfully made the leap to professional brewing. Here’s Spencer and Doug with their story.
On Tap fresh beer has been raising some froth in Singapore lately. Following up on Smith Street Taps lead in draft beers cum hawker fare, they have established themselves at a number of locations – ex Newton, Serangoon Gardens, Chinatown Complex in addition to the production joint in Bukit Batok.
Production facility? Yes, we’re getting there – they do brew their own beers locally. I sat down with Mario Nube – their Brewmaster, who was happy to share with me his thoughts on brewing beer.
Since starting the Korean part of this blog in the summer of 2013, a lot has changed in the Korean Craft Beer scene.
This list is a tip of the hat to what I think were the highlights of this past year. This is not an official list or a consensus. I didn’t try all the beers or visit all the pubs. And perhaps some of the candidates were more 2014 than 2015. Deal with it. This is just my personal favorite things in 2015. It is biased, in a sense, but there’s no craft beer place or person in the country that I have a grudge against.
Best Pub of 2015
The First Alleyway (Gwangju)
Pong Dang (Garosu-gil, Seoul)
Galmegi Brewery (Gwangalli Beach, Busan)
CraftBros (Seoraemaeul, Seoul)
Four Seasons (Itaewon, Seoul)
Lots of great, great places that I love have been left off this list. I love going to Reilly’s, Maloneys, Magpie, The Booth, and many more. Plus, there’s lots of great places I haven’t visited yet. The inclusion of The First Alleyway might surprise many who haven’t heard of it or read my pub crawl in Gwangju. I love it because it’s just my favorite space in the country. The food, the friendliness, the games! Galmegi, CraftBros, and Four Seasons all do their own beer. Galmegi has amazing pizza. CraftBros is probably the best bottle shop in the country. But my winner for 2015 is Pong Dang.
Some of the bottles served at Pong Dang. Not an exhaustive list!
Barrel aged and sour Korea craft beers? YES!
Pong Dang has the craziest rotating tap selection in the country. They seem to have a new tap takeover every other week: Magpie, Ballast Point, Upright, Barrel/cask aged imports, etc. They also serve their own contract brews and have been one of the only places in Seoul I’ve been able to find Galmegi and Wild Waves. Throw in a Street Fighter II Turbo arcade game and my bias towards Gangnam locations and we have a winner!
Best Korean Craft Beer of 2015
Maloney’s Combat Zone 2.0
Galmegi’s Hallabong Gose
Hand & Malt’s Chyung Pyung Harvest Ale
Magpie’s The Last Train Baltic Porter
Hand and Malt’s Barrel-Aged Mocha Stout
I’m hugely biased here. I clearly favor Hand & Malt, Magpie, and Galmegi and if I made this list a top 10, probably at least 8-9 spots would go to those three breweries (Maloney’s is brewed at Hand & Malt). It’s hard to leave off the Hand & Malt’s Slow IPA, which many would think is a better choice than the Barrel-aged Mocha Stout which was a little too strong on the bourbon but was new and daring. Also, I love many of the contract brews available at CraftBros, Four Seasons, and Pong Dang. Craftworks did a solid job with their summer series. And my personal favorite might have been Galmegi’s Doljanchi IIPA which didn’t even make the list.
The Combat Zone relaunched at Phillies this year with a little more balance in the hops, bringing more to the aroma and less to the hop bite. The Hallabong Gose is, I think, the single best introductory sour ale with its very light sour and salt touch rounding out the beautiful hallabong citrus and peachy yeast notes. The Chyung Pyung Harvest Ale, the first made with Korean hops, was underwhelming at first. I thought it was slightly vegetal at the launch. After trying it again at Reilly’s, I was surprised with how much more floral and balanced it was! Always give a beer a second chance! What you ate, the time of day, or anything else can change your perception of it. But my winner for 2015 is Magpie’s The Last Train Baltic Porter.
Magpie’s Porter was among the first true Korean Craft Beers and remains a very solid choice in today’s crowding market. The Last Train seems to ramp up all that roasty gorgeousness to the max, weighing in at 8%. Fermented slowly at lower temperatures, this is a gorgeous beer. I almost picked Magpie’s A Bird in the Hand RyePA, but realized that was more of a 2014 beer.
On the 5th of December 2015 – we had a first – a BJCP tasting exam conducted in Singapore. In the past, the best options available to us were to either take the exam in locations such as Hong Kong or Australia, but the Singapore Craft Brew Club and Neo Say Wee successfully coordinated with Scott of the BJCP to have him fly in while in the region, to proctor the exam.
Over the course of 3 months, the candidates subjected themselves to rigorous study and beer styles education in order to gain a broad understanding of flavors, faults, ingredients and history – in order to make the cut for the BJCP.
Along the way there was some inevitable fallout due to time commitment and busy schedules. Nevertheless at the final exam, we had a full turnout of 15 with 2 candidates from overseas filling the spots.
Here we are with some photos of the actual exam – everyone working their noses hard.
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In all honesty the exam was really kind to the candidates – we were not given intentionally doctored beers, and the last beer of the flight was a pleasant Stone Ruination 2.0. There was not much to complain about. An amusing reveal was that an ABC Stout(local, tropical) was entered as an American Stout and actually scored well on the whole – shows that commercial, macro beers are indeed well made.
And it’s a 2 month wait to know our results – if we passed or failed. Big thanks to Scott, Neo, the club and all volunteers who made this possible, as well as a great experience for us all.
Craft Beer Asia took a little trip to Mumbai in 2015 to check out the local craft beer scene in the city. For those of you with a day to spare and want to check out some great local craft beer, here is what you need to know.
Our craft beer day begins in Colaba where art deco buildings and history are abound. Opposite the historic Regal Cinema is The Woodside Inn, a Gastropub featuring American and European fare along with some local spins. One of the most important local spins at this establishment is the lineup of Gateway Beers on tap. Gateway is Mumbai’s first microbrewery offering various styles of craft beer on tap throughout the Mumbai area.
After a great lunch and fine ales, time to walk off a few calories before making our way to stop #2 on our Craft Beer trail through Mumbai. It’s off to Lower Parel district to the North and The One Indiabulls Center. This is an office complex and inside the facility is The White Owl, a brewpub featuring house brews and a very delicious menu for dinner. You may have to ask the guard how to find the pub, but once you do, you will be glad you did.
Brewer, Mayhul Patel, came from a history in the India wine industry before shifting gears into the craft beer world. Mayhem is passionate about his craft and has big dreams for the craft beer culture in India.
After a very satisfying dinner. It’s time to make a short hike or taxi ride to Mumbai’s original brewpub, The Barking Deer. The Barking Deer is the creation of American, Gregory Kroitzsh who after a lot of patience to obtain a license in Alcohol paranoid Mumbai, opened a world class brewpub to set the stage for the craft beer scene in the city.
The Barking Deer features ongoing special events including a great comedy night when I was there. I had the privilege of meeting brewer, Varsha Bhat, whose passion and intelligence will serve India’s craft beer scene well in the years to come. A tip for a late night snack to go with your Barking Deer craft beer is the Chicken Tikka grilled on the patio. Mmmmmmmm……
As late night settles in and the need to burn a few calories becomes evident, head next door to The Blue Frog Lounge for some fantastic live music, dancing and of course… Craft Beer. The Blue Frog has taps flowing that contain Mumbai’s Gateway Brewing.
Craft Beer Asia attended Beertopia in Hong Kong in October of 2015. After the event, I spent a day enjoying some fine craft beer establishments in the city. The next time you find yourself with a day to spare, why not make it a Craft Beer Day in Hong Kong!
Breakfast (and Craft Beer) at The Globe – Garely Building, 45-53 Graham Street
With 18 rotating taps and an extensive bottle list featuring local, European and American craft beers, this place is perfect for a morning brew or two and some breakfast. I opted for a sampler of local craft beer.
Don’t forget breakfast! The Globe offers some tasty treats to go with your morning Ales. I went for the Beans (Peas) on Toast with Scrambled Egg. This offered some energy to hike around the city before our next stop.
After I walked off the beers for breakfast, not hard to do in Hong Kong with all the hills, I settled in to an afternoon of craft beer and barbecue at The Roundhouse Taproom. With 26 craft beers from around the world, and a great bottle selection, this place offered some good conversation with the staff and patrons who came and went all afternoon.
Dinner (and Craft Beer) at Beer & Fish – 67 Staunton Street
A cozy little fish and chips joint tucked into a busy street corner in Hong Kong offers an eclectic selection of imported craft beers both in bottle and on their four taps. The place is small but fantastic for people watching as the evening sets in. I had some Mikkeller Beer and BrewDog from the taps while enjoying some fantastic Fish & Chips with Mushy Peas. The bottle list included, among others, Japanese Craft Beer, Hitachino Nest.
If the night is not too far gone, it’s time to start over, as each venue offers a completely different atmosphere depending on the time of day you are patronizing. Overall, craft beer is alive and well in Hong Kong.
Manila’s Craft Beer Scene is thriving. We offer you a six pack of venues to enjoy local (and imported) craft beers in Manila as well as some recommendations of food and beer pairings that we’ve enjoyed. Cheers!
1. The Bottle Shop
Jim Araneta, the pioneer of craft beer in The Philippines, operates two locations of The Bottle Shop where one can find the largest selection of craft beer in the country. Each locations features at least 12 rotating taps of both local and imported craft beer as well as a vast selection of bottles for in house consumption or to go. Watch for special events at each location that feature limited supply beers and new releases. An array of cocktails is also available including The Philippines’ largest selection of hand crafted Gin. Food is also available.
Our Pick: The Cebruery People Power Pale Ale and a Fresh Made Baguettini
Bottle Shop BGC: 26th Street Corner 3rd Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City Bottle Shop Magallanes: Ground Floor, Tritan Ventures Building, Magallanes, Makati City
2. The Perfect Pint
The Perfect Pint is your perfect spot to sample a vast array of local Filipino craft beers and Modern Filipino & International cuisine. Located next to MC Home Depot in BGC, The Perfect Pint is open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A dozen draft beers and a large bottle selection are available and one or two house-made brews rotate the taps on occasion.
Our Pick: Truffle Fries and Ayahay IPA from Palaweño Brewery
The Perfect Pint: Second Floor, Crossroads Building, 32nd Street, Bonifacio Global City
3. Smoky Bastard
Smoky Bastard is a very unique craft beer bar located in a high-end food court in Century Mall. This one of a kind spot feature four taps of local craft beers (such as Katipunan and Pedro Brewcrafters) and an extensive bottle selection. The bar also offers cocktails and is open late, even after the mall closes. Being inside the food court, known as Hole in the Wall, allows patrons to purchase food at one of its premium food vendors such as Mr. Delicious, Bad Bird or Scouts Honor.
Our Pick: Joe’s Brew 34th Pursuit IPA and Sisig Tacos from Posporo Taqueria Filipino
Smoky Bastard & Hole in the Wall: Hole in the Wall, Fourth Floor, Century City Mall, Kalayaan Avenue, Poblacion, Makati City
4. The Brewery at The Palace
Metro Manila’s newest craft beer hotspot located in BGC features a 400 seat restaurant, live music stage and half a dozen in house brewed craft beers. Plenty of parking welcomes guests and a friendly and attentive staff will ensure your visit here is complete. Fresh crafted beer can be ordered by the glass or on a sample tray and can be paired with some delicious menu items perfectly crafted to compliment the beer. Located in the same venue is The Palace Pool Club and Valkyrie Night Club should you want to dance off some of those calories.
Our Pick: A Sample Tray of Four House Brews and The Nachos! Sarap!! (Yummy!)
The Brewery at The Palace: 9th Avenue Corner 36th Street, Bonifacio Global City
5. Big Bad Wolf
Located next to Burgos Circle in BGC, Big Bad Wolf offers a nice selection of imported and local craft beers on tap and by the bottle.This funky bar known for food, music and art is great for people watching from their patio seating or one can enjoy the eclectically decorated interior while sampling some of The Phlippines’ finest craft beers. The Big Bad Wolf also brews their own beers and offers a rotating selection on their taps.
Our Pick: Queso Fundido (with house made chorizo and freshly made flour tortillas) with a Nipa Brew Tropic Haze Wheat Beer
Big Bad Wolf: Forbes Town Center, Burgos Circle, Bonifacio Global City (Next to Bugsy’s)
6. The Belle and Dragon
A new addition to the Makati pub scene. Located on the quiet Carlos Palanca street in Legaspi Village, this spot is perfect for the business crowd in Makati to grab a lunch or relax after work. The open concept bar offers some patio seating, perfect for watching the street below. Six craft and imported beers are available on tap including some local favourites like Great Islands Craft Brewing and Pedro Brewcrafters. The food is fantastic and the service is great!
Our Pick: Pearl of the Orient Pale Ale and Chicken Karaage Bao Sandwich
The Belle & Dragon: 100 Don Carlos Palanca, Legaspi Village, Makati City
American Thanksgiving is in just a few days and if you’re looking for the city’s best places to enjoy some turkey and a pint of good beer, then look no further.
Hopscotch in Gangnam and Gwanghwamun will both be providing Thanksgiving dinner at 6pm on Thursday. This is their third year providing delicious turkey dinners. But seats are almost sold out as of Tuesday evening!
“Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sauteed veggies, cranberry jam, all made from scratch and one free draft beer from The Hand and Malt. Free seconds too but most get stuffed after the first plate.”
For reservations or directions call: Gangnam 02-511-0145 / Gwanghwamun 02-722-0145
You can also RSVP via facebook or text to 010-8633-8300 (Gangnam branch) or 02-722-0145 (Gwanghwamun branch).
Maloney’s Pub and Grill
The good people at Maloney’s will be offering a first come/first served Thanksgiving dinner at 5pm with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, veggies, buns with real butter, pumpkin pie, glass of wine. 30,000 won per plate. Of course, lots of craft beers are on tap for great prices, especially Hand & Malt and Maloney’s beers.
They will be offering turkey or ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, mac & cheese, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, cornbread, and pumpkin (or apple) pie for only W30,000 per person.
Craftworks will be offering both reservations and first come/first served.
Reservations are made at email@example.com and please provide your reservation name, no. of guests, contact number and time.”
Craftworks is throwing a crazy Thanksgiving buffet. Reservations are required, with seating filling up fast. Chose 5-7pm, 9-11pm, or the Sunday Brunch Buffet from noon-4pm. Tickets for Thursday are 45,000won.
“Menu will include: SMOKED Turkey, Roasted Turkey, Deep Fried Turkey, Bacon-wrapped Turkey, TUR-DUCK-EN!!! As well as Famous CW Stuffing, Twice Baked Potatoes, REAL Turkey Gravy (made from turkey stock!!!), Mac ‘n Cheese, Sweet Potato Casserole, Green Bean Casserole, Chopped Salad, Roasted/grilled veggies, Buttered Corn, Cranberry Sauce, Pumpkin Pie, And MORE and MORE and MORE – keep checking the event for menu additions!
45,000W per person
20,000W per child under 12
Gets you 2 hours of pure BUFFET BLISS with a glass of mulled wine!”